Conference on Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theory in Early Modern Britain and Europe, 1500-1800. To be held at Birkbeck College, University of London, on 13-14 July 2001
Conspiracies, real or imagined, were an essential feature of early modern life, offering a seemingly rational and convincing explanation for patterns of political and social behaviour. This conference will examine conspiracies and conspiracy theory from a broad historical and interdisciplinary perspective, by combining the theoretical approach of the history of ideas with specific examples from the period.
The organisers invite papers exploring such issues as: the popularity of conspiracy theory as a mode of explanation; why was it so attractive to early modern minds? What evidence was produced to support it, and how were these ideas challenged? Did the supposedly scientific and rational thought of the Enlightenment, or other intellectual meovements, undermine the foundations upon which these theories were constructed, or did they merely alter their forms? Papers examining the social and cultural role of conspiracy theory are also invited. Why were witches, heretics and religious minorities perceived in conspiratorial terms? Later, is a comprarble approach useful in the study of atheism, free-thought and freemasonry? Papers dealing with real or imagined plots, whether successful or otherwise, their causes, uses, and consequences will also be welcomed. To what extent did contemporaries actually understand political culture in terms of conspiracy theory? As prevailing notions of royal soverignty equated open opposition with treason, almost any political activity had to be clandestine in nature. Factions and cabals abounded in European courts as a result, but can a similar pattern be detected in other institutions. Did clerical bodies, Parliaments, Provincial Estates, municipalities or village communities obey similar laws? By the late eighteenth century Britain had begun to develop the notion of a 'loyal opposition', and in the France of Louis XIV a similar movement was arguably taking shape. Why then was the outbreak of the French Revolution frequently explained in conspiratorial terms, and why did European rulers and their subjects remain obsessed with conspiracies both real and imagined?
For more information, see the conference website, listed below.
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